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Beginning Walter Benjamin

September 28, 2017

Arcades Project

(Instrumentalist lens: Exploring input, sense making and output.)

After One-Way Street, dipping into the Arcades Project. Hard to figure out how to ‘work’ the book itself. Not left to right or front to back Not a single narrative or constructing an argument.

Making sense of it by feeling what patterns it matches.

First comes Nietzsche’s aphorisms (as suggested by the introduction, I believe).

Next the pattern of compiling the Oxford English Dictionary as described in The Professor and the Madman. A cubby hole. Multiple entries, erudition from around the world. Slips of paper from all over. Organized by specific principles. Only the principles are less discernible so far in the Arcades. But the sense of economy, of fitting much into a small space, is there. Perhaps that contributes to its sense of grandeur, the sense there is an immensity going on. A grand description, a grand artifact preserving? describing? painting? What? an era? humanity? Perhaps proposing new ideas. Can’t tell.

It feels there is an organizing principle (for certainly feels there is an intense intellect at work). But the feeling of an organizing principle may come from me rather than the text itself. Or perhaps even further, from the mechanics alone of reading, the indestructible mechanics of their being a vantage point when receiving -listening, reading, observing, etc. [See Paul Vincent Spade on the differences between Husserl’s phenomenological movie-theater and Sartre’s].

Then there’s John Ashberry, Three Poems. It seems a relative, in some sense. A partial pattern match. Though they’re different. Ashberry is more personal, more internal. Less outwardly sweeping, but more instantly universal. It is more readily a noun. A beauty. []Personal Perspective[]

Though the Ashberry pattern is useful in sense making []Discerning Differences[] The Arcades may one day become a noun, graspable as a beauty or a ____.  Would that defeat the work? Is the goal of reading (receiving, perceiving) to form a noun or does the need arise when wanting to transmit, communicate out?

Is the work Benjamin’s or the scholar compilers who decided it was a whole to be published? And co-conspirators, the translators who took it a step farther. Are their patterns in the work? Does it matter in the face of the indestructible vantage point and the fact of the work existing in front of me?

The way data is compiled and presented seems to matter to the output of current algorithms. But is that because we are looking at output, transmission?

There’s seems a loop here back to:

  • Dennett’s sense of consciousness as us talking to ourselves (even his illustration of seeing what the ‘robot’ sees is us viewing an output),
  • Sartre’s reflection reflecting
  • Memetic survivability of an idea
  • Quantum states collapsing when observed



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